Game of Bhat and Laos

We're not gonna lie. If you gave us a map and asked us to point to Laos, our general guess would be somewhere between Russia and the Philippines. We might not be smarter than a 5th grader, but that's why there's Cafe de Laos (and Wikipedia), educating Caucasians on the finer points of Lao (and Thai) cuisine from the fringe of the Italian Market. The roomy cafe is how you might imagine the Conservatory in a Far East game of Clue--dark carved wood, big windows, woven rattan furniture, and a jungle of foliage--and the food will make you forget you're in South Philly. Start with a Thai iced tea, a blend of condensed milk, sugar, and red tea that turns the elixir the color of a Circus Peanut. These candy-sweet beverages are the perfect counterpoint to Cafe de Laos's spicy offerings, like excellent pad thai and Yum Pla Muek, hot-and-sweet calamari salad with chilies, tomatoes, ginger, onion, and cilantro. Kaeng Ped Yang (pictured) brings together tender duck, coconut milk, and red curry paste into a roaring bath of golden yellow fire that starts out deceptively cool. Japanese eggplant and string beans give the curry some body, while grapes and pineapple offer pops of fruity flavor. Mieng Kham are make-your-own Lao-style lettuce wraps. They're presented on a stunning blue-and-white china platter, its dimples filled with lettuce leaves, minced chilies, diced ginger, peanuts, toasted coconut chips, shimmering peridots of fresh limes, dried baby shrimp, and red onion. Place all that in a leaf, drizzle on some syrupy palm sugar, and you've got a kickass Southeast Asian roll whose flavors change with each bite. We still don't know where Laos is on a map, but we know if we ever want the country's food, we just need to jet over to 11th & Washington.
Photo: Blogalicious


nicole said...

You must have had quite the charming lunch companion that day! I can just sense it from your writing :)

Anonymous said...

We eat here all the time. The food is consistently great. The palce is also child friendly which is a plus.